I like Winter. There, I said it. I like the bite of cold air when I breath it in and the cloud I create when I return it. I like the way the air seems clearer to my eyes and feels cleaner on my skin. I like the way the sunlight glints off the frost clinging to bare tree branches and the grass, lying dormant at my feet. I like the intricate patterns that frost creates as it grows, like a living thing, on my windows. I like the way snow drifts slowly from unknown heights to the waiting ground. I like the way it puts winter caps on my birdfeeders and the branches of trees growing in my yard. The hush of the snowy woods, the soft thump as bent boughs shed their burden. If you listen closely, you can hear it whisper as it alights on the brim of your hat. I like that too. Believe it or not, I like to shovel it. Then, there’s the ice. Fleeing from the warmth of your roof, snow runs to the eves, refreezes, drop by drop, growing, slender and delicate at first, fanglike and glittering in its terrible maturity, a tiny jewel trembling at its tip. The forest, encased in crystal at sunrise. Skip a stone across the surface of a newly frozen pond and hear it sing. Return at mid-winter to stand on the ice while it thunders and groans in its growing pains. These sights, sounds and sensations are what I like about Winter. I encourage you to experience them yourselves and discover something new in the coming months.
There’s still plenty of opportunity to wet a line before we’re snowed in. Steelhead are running in the rivers out Oswego way and closer to home, you can still find active Walleye, Bass and panfish but if you’re like most anglers, you’ve long since stowed your gear and forgotten about it already. If that sounds like you, let me make the following suggestion to make next Spring’s first outing less stressful. Go back to the corner where you heaped your tackle and un-heap it. First, remove that hook, bobber or lure you used last summer, then remove the line from your reel. In a matter of minutes, you will solve the problem of hopelessly tangled line and hours of frustration next year. Wait until next spring to put new line on your reels so you won’t return home with a tale of the one that got away because your line was old. Now open your tackle box. Hopefully, your nose won’t tell you that this is where you put last container of worms you purchased. Throw away all the junk that accumulated last summer. Rusty hooks, tangled, kinked leaders and snells, old fish scents, used worms, grubs and any other used-up or spent tackle needs to go. You’ll be better off without them and they won’t cost much to replace with new. Take an inventory of what you have left, note what you lost. Make a list of what you want, send it off to Santa or just leave it in a conspicuous spot and hope for the best. As you engage in that Herculean labor, you can relive your past glories and dream of those ahead.
The same general advice goes for all you ice fishermen out there. No matter your good intentions as ice season ended last March, I’m sure that they weren’t all realized. I dread tackling the mess that’s lurking in my shed, but it will go better for me if I face the music sooner than later. You may be thinking,”Me too”. If so, grab the pack basket by the straps and get your gear in order. Change the blades on your auger, even if the old ones were “fine” last year. Nothing will end an ice fishing trip quicker than not being able to bore a hole through the ice. Keep last year’s blades in reserve along with the appropriate tool to change them if necessary. Tip-ups have an uncanny way of shedding line and creating knots of Gordian intricacy during the off season, so make the time to untangle before first ice. Replace last year’s hooks and leaders then change the line on your jigging rods, just do it, trust me. Every lure you used last year will work this year but I’m sure that won’t stop you from stocking up on old favorites and the next greatest thing. That’s just the way we roll.
Deer Season’s Not Over Yet
There are still a couple of weeks left to fill your freezer with venison if you haven’t done so already. Most deer hunters fill their buck tags during the first few days of the regular firearms season but there are still a couple of weeks left if you weren’t one of the lucky ones. Bucks are still chasing does and with fewer receptive does to be chased, you can greatly increase your chances with the use of doe- in-estrus scents. Play the wind and scent game correctly and you will draw a buck to his final blind date. Deer management permits should be filled if the opportunity presents itself. These permits are issued by DEC to control the deer population by giving hunters the opportunity to help in the effort and to take some extra venison home. A little snow on the ground will also help with tracking your quarry so think cold thoughts and help bring winter a little sooner. When you are in the woods, wear hunter’s orange and when in your tree stand, wear your safety harness to reduce the risk of tragedy. Also, if you take a deer or bear, remember to report your success to DEC.
Thanksgiving’s feast is a warm memory and winter will make its grand entrance soon, so be ready to enjoy what’s ahead. We are fortunate to live in an area that affords us so many recreational opportunities. Whichever way you chose to spend your time outdoors, skiing, snowshoeing, boarding, biking, snowmobiling, hunting or fishing, be safe and take a friend or family member along to enjoy it too. Stay alert for new ways to appreciate what nature has to offer and give thanks for winter.
Tim and Rose Blodgett are the owners of Saratoga Tackle and Archery located on Rt. 29 in Schuylerville. Fishing tackle and Archery equipment and service are available in a friendly environment. We are there to help you to enjoy your experience and feel the outdoor spirit. Call 518-584-3952 or visit us on facebook and saratogatackle.com